It’s rainy and 52 degrees here in Olympia. Sigh. I have returned. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be home with the husband and the large orange cat. But, I was adjusting nicely to sunny and 72 degrees every day.
For today’s post I’m going to rewind back one week. I was in Santa Fe for my first full day. I awoke early, put my pack together, slipped into my hiking clothes and drove Southwest for an hour. I was going hiking….alone.
I don’t tend to hike alone. I prefer the companionship of the husband. And I’m a little bit of a chicken. There are bears out there. And cougars. And a lot of crazy whack-job humans. But, I desperately wanted to do a bit of hiking while in New Mexico, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks sounded like the perfect place to go. It offered the best of both worlds: a loop hike and a slot canyon. The two combined total only a little over 4 miles.
I arrived at the trail head a little after 9. There were not a lot of cars there, yet, but I was happy to see couples and a few kids a couple of small groups of women. Yes, you heard me say those words. Me…the one who prefers hiking in complete solitude…was happy to see other people. Now, I wanted them to keep their mouths shut on the trail, but it was good to know that if I caught my ankle in a rock, fell down and rolled around that there would be someone around to pick me up.
I strapped on my pack and headed up the trail, eager to get to the slot canyon, but traveling at a slow pace because there were lots of beautiful things begging to be photographed. I’ve never been through a true slot canyon and was all kinds of excited. I was not disappointed.
Kasha-Katuwe means white cliffs in the traditional language of the Pueblo de Cochiti. The cone-shaped tent rock formations resulted from volcanic eruptions that occurred 6-7 million years ago that left pumice, ash and tuff deposits over 1000 feet thick. The tent rocks vary in height from a few feet to 90 feet. Some of the tents have rocks precariously perched on their tops. These are boulder caps and they actually protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents that have lots their resistant caprocks are disintegrating as a result. The layering of volcanic material has resulted in bands of grey interspersed with beige and pink-colored rock along the cliff face.
Archaeological studies have revealed evidence of human occupation spanning 4000 years. During the 14th and 15th centuries, several large ancestral pueblos were established and their descendants, the Pueblo de Cochiti, still inhabit the surrounding area.
I followed a wide gravel trail, taking the spur to the right that led to the slot canyon. The morning was a bit chilly, but beautifully sunny. The cliffs rose above me, interspersed with hoodoos. I admired it all. The colors, the shapes…amazing.
The trail narrowed and shortly thereafter I entered the slot canyon. At its narrowest point the footpath was just a few inches wide, but the sides remained wide enough to avoid a claustrophobic feel (though some may disagree). It was cool and peaceful in the canyon, the colors soft and warm.
After leaving the canyon the trail began to climb. The gain (700 feet) was negligible, but considering that I had been at sea-level the day before and was now at 6000+ feet….well, I was puffing and sweating in short order.
It was pretty cool. No. It was really cool. One moment I was looking up at hoodoos. Then, as I climbed, they moved to eye level. Not long after, I was above them.
The valley opened before me…365 degree views that were breathtaking. I was looking down on the hoodoos, down on the slot canyon. I was on top of the world.
I paused at the top for a snack, stepping around children (well, I wanted people around), then started back down. There were a steady stream of people coming in as I headed out. After leaving the slot canyon trail I finished the loop, pausing to admire an old (and I do mean old) caveate (cliff dwelling) along the way. I got back to the car around 11:30 to find the parking lot crawling with people, more cars arriving by the minute, the people in them coveting my primo parking spot. I played dumb and pulled my lunch out of the trunk. I pulled up a picnic table and enjoyed a leisurely lunch, drinking in the view.
Not-so-solo-hike…successful! I headed back to Santa Fe, eager to explore the town a bit.